SFD - An excreta flow diagram

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SFD for Dakar, Senegal (Blackett et al., 2014)

The fate of excreta produced by urban populations across the globe is often poorly understood. Particularly in low- and middle-income countries with rapidly expanding cities, excreta management represents a growing challenge generating significant negative public health and environmental risks.

An excreta flow diagram (also often described as shit flow diagram = SFD) is a tool to readily understand and visually communicate how excreta physically flows through a city or town. It shows how excreta is or is not contained as it moves from defecation to disposal or end-use giving a general overview of the fate of the generated excreta.

An accompanying report describes the service delivery context of the city or town. SFDs are a useful tool to inform urban sanitation programming. They offer an innovative way to engage city stakeholders like political leaders, sanitation experts and civil society organisations in a coordinated dialogue about excreta management. They can also be used for advocacy.

Purpose of an SFD

An SFD presents a clear picture of how wastewater and faecal sludge management services are delivered in a city and the resulting challenges. These can then be linked to aspects of service delivery where improvements are needed.

Primarily it provides technical and non-technical stakeholders with an easy-understood advocacy tool that can be used to support decision-making on urban sanitation planning and programming.

Importantly, an SFD does not provide a 'shortcut' around integrated sanitation planning, promotion, investment, design, construction, operation and maintenance. These aspects remain as very necessary components for implementing successful urban sanitation.

SFD components

An SFD for any city or town consists of three parts:

  1. A diagram which shows the pathways all excreta generated by a city's population takes from defecation to final fate - either unsafe discharge to the environment, or safe reuse/disposal (LINK)
  2. A concise narrative report on the diagram and the service delivery context - including the enabling environment within which the services are being delivered (LINK)
  3. A complete record of all the data sources used in developing the diagram and report - the stakeholders consulted, documents reviewed and all validation and quality control exercises implemented.(LINK)

SFD Helpdesk

The SFD Helpdesk is a platform created by the SFD Promotion Initiative which gives you the possibility to write your own SFD with the support of the Helpdesk team and a pool of experts, consisting of experienced SFD authors. When you think your report is ready, you can then have it reviewed by a member of the pool of experts, who will give you comments on your report and guide you through the process of finalizing it. If your report is finalized and reviewed, you also have the option to publish it on the SFD platform.

Visit the Helpdesk here.

SFDs worldwide

As sanitation practitioners and city officials recognize how effective SFDs are in engaging and stimulating dialogue on excreta management to achieve better sanitation, the number of SFDs being prepared all over the world is increasing rapidly. More than 40 SFDs from all over the world have been prepared already.

List of cities with finalized SFDs: SFDs worldwide page.